‘After painting, I’m calm and able to face my realities free from a clouded mind,’ says Trish Legault
The Steel Spirit is a platform for artwork submissions by military, first responder and hospital practitioners. They are always looking for new and emerging artists with and without experience, from every background and every age. For more information or if you would like to be involved, please visit www.thesteelspirit.ca. One of the artists featured on the digitial platform is Trish Legault.
“We are our own worst critics. No one in the world can beat me into the ground as well as I can do it myself. With painting, however, when I’ve felt I’ve hit a wall, I just keep working on it.” — Trish Legault
Trish Legault joined the military in February 2003 and began basic training in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.
“I was 35 years old and one of about three in that age range. It was very difficult keeping up with the 18- to 21-year-olds. It was an experience I will never forget. I knew I had to be successful regardless of the difficulties because, as a single parent, my daughter’s and my livelihood depended on me,” she said.
After completing basic training, Legault joined the Air Force sector. She became a resources management support clerk, now known as human resources administration. She will retire this year with a medical release on her 55th birthday after serving more than 20 years.
During her time with the military, she completed an extended tour and took part in all exercises, training, and tasking that saw her travel to different parts of Canada, the U.S., and other countries. She toured Afghanistan from May 2008 to February 2009.
“This was the longest time I spent away from my daughter, Danielle. As a single parent, this, I would say, was the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced. Being separated from one’s child is unbearable at times,” she said.
Legault reflects on that deployment being an emotional 10 months: “I made some very good friends there who I still keep in contact with, but I lost friends there, too, and think of them often.”
She also had opportunities with the military to take part in training that would allow her to travel in Cyprus, Germany, England and Dubai.
“Unfortunately, being dressed in military attire (Canadian military uniform) and travelling as a group left me feeling like I was in a fish bowl while going through these places, as you don’t really blend in, but are special for locals who either stay far away from you or question your purpose in their home. Both of those responses I found extremely uncomfortable,” she said.
Throughout the ups and downs of these tours, she went through different trauma and found her brain couldn’t file it safely away under military experience.
More recently, during COVID isolation, Legault and her family decided to do weekly virtual painting nights so they could keep in touch. She had always had a love of art, but found life and responsibilities would get in the way. She had never really painted seriously before, and these sessions became the start of her true love affair with painting.
“It was relief, bliss, calming, exciting — it was a way for me to communicate. After painting, I’m calm and able to face my realities free from a clouded mind that’s unable to focus,” she said.
As part of her transition out of the military, last year, Legault was accepted to the Ottawa School of Art and began classes in January 2023.
“Through my paintings, I think about one traumatic experience at a time, I paint it, I observe my emotions through the painting, and then I can file it away under complete art. This may not deal with a traumatic event, but it does give me a way to express my emotions that otherwise I’m not able to articulate into words. Through my art, I’m finding my way,” she said.
“Trish’s artwork is so diverse and so impressive. She always enjoys the challenge of painting something new, which I think has definitely influenced her acceptance into art school. It’s inspiring to be reminded that we can literally create new chapters in our lives and that our own worst critic is often wrong,” said Barbara Brown, founder of The Steel Spirit.
The Steel Spirit is a platform for artwork submissions by military, first responder and hospital practitioners. The collective is always looking for new and emerging artists, with and without art experience, from every background and every age. For more information or if you would like to be involved, visit www.thesteelspirit.ca.